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Unhulled sesame seeds can be either light brown (golden) or black. Other than their color, are there other differences are their between these two varieties? Why might you choose one type over the other (again, I only care about reasons that aren't related to color or aesthetics of a dish).

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Dark sesame seeds are more common in Indian cooking. I personally think that they have a more intense taste. They are also smaller, for what little difference that makes. I wouldn't rush to use them to make tahini, because the color would be surprising and I suspect that the flavor would be a bit bitter.

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Is tahini made with unhulled sesame seeds? If you hull them it wouldn't matter, right? – kevins Jul 14 '10 at 22:19
Hmm. I don't know. I confess that I've never seen a hulled sesame seed for sale, and the recipes I have for Tahini just say 'sesame seeds'. So, I would be using unhulled ones, but I might be wrong. – bmargulies Jul 14 '10 at 22:33
In my local health food store you can buy hulled and unhulled tahini. The unhulled is darker in colour and stronger in taste. Hulled tahini is milder and seems creamier. – nunu Aug 28 '10 at 10:25

Dark ones are perfects for Sushi and other Japanese dishes (I've tried to substitute them with golden ones, but disappointingly the flavor was not as good as with dark ones).

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Also make sure you're comparing types of seeds not just their preparation. "Brown" sesame seeds may merely be roasted. They have a nuttier flavor, almost like popcorn.

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Black sesame seeds are definitely a different variety than the cream/brown ones, and used in Japanese cooking. It is likely that black ones have greater anti-oxidant/ polyphenol content. Dr Barry Sears (the Zone Diet guy) says that the lignans from toasted sesame seeds increase your production of anti inflammatory prostaglandins, if that's any help.

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Please don't make health claims, this site is for cooking techniques and not nutrition. See the faq for details. – rumtscho Oct 10 '12 at 21:29

Black sesame seeds do impart a stronger taste than regular sesame seeds, especially when lightly toasted in a dry pan. They are great ground and added to rich beefy soups or broths.

White sesame on the other hand, has a slightly lighter taste. Toasted white sesame seeds go great mixed with tuna mayo and red onion. They also go very well with chicken and some fish dishes.

Overall, white sesame goes well with lighter coloured and flavoured dishes. Black sesame goes well with darker and stronger flavoured dishes. At least that's what I do. Of course, you can try them with whatever dish you like. These are just some personal preferences.

Oh and black sesame oil, for some strange reason, does not impart as strong a taste as white sesame oil. Asians add black sesame oil to noodles to impart a wonderful taste.

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